A couple of weeks ago Chen Zuoer, a former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, decried the failure of decolonisation in Hong Kong and Hongkongers’ emotional disconnect from the Chinese nation.
He then mentioned Wo de Zuguo (My Motherland), a Chinese patriotic song from the early 1950s, which he “often listens to and always finds it good”. Perhaps he’s suggesting that Hongkongers should listen to Wo de Zuguo and similar songs more often, or even sing them? Somehow, I don’t see that happening.
Patriotic songs are not exclusive to China; all modern nation states use songs to rally their people. Apart from national anthems, unabashedly patriotic ditties such as America the Beautiful and Rule, Britannia! purport to instil national pride and loyalty to the state, while folk tunes including Ireland’s Danny Boy, sung at opportune occasions, can make those within earshot misty-eyed. A community’s cri de coeur can even be something as pedestrian as a theme song from a television show, such as Hong Kong’s Below the Lion Rock.
Classic of Poetry, the oldest extant anthology of Chinese verse, contains a section of 31 songs called “Eulogies of Zhou”, which extol the many virtues of the founders of the Zhou dynasty. Compiled between 1046BC and 977BC and sung during important ceremonies during that time, they may well be the most ancient patriotic songs in China.